The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returned to FOX Sports 1 (FS1) last night (Weds., June 20, 2018) for episode 10 of its first-ever “Undefeated” season. Coaching the cast of 16 mixed martial arts (MMA) hopefuls — split between the featherweight and lightweight divisions — are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC 205-pound kingpin Daniel Cormier.
“DC” is jumping up in weight to challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July.
We kick things off inside the TUF gym and Coach Cormier brings in special guest trainer Michael Chiesa, current lightweight contender and champion of TUF 15. “Maverick” starts out using the word “Conch” and I’m immediately a fan. His pep talk is centered around the trials and tribulations of TUF life, which has been likened to a protracted psychotic episode.
Brad Katona and Bryce Mitchell collide in tonight’s featherweight semifinal bout, and since both fighters compete for Team Cormier, there is some concern about training in close proximity. They happen to be friends outside the cage and consider themselves to be professionals, so it’s pretty much business as usual inside the gym.
“Violent Bob Ross” calls it the most exciting semifinal match up (on paper). Katona recognizes that he’s the underdog but plans to prove to his teammates — as well as his slightly-biased coaches — that he’s not to be underestimated. Mitchell calls Katona “the toughest fight of his life” and refuses to buy into the hype, instead opting to “do his homework” and avoid “getting his ass whooped.” He talks about how his mom taught him to “never quit” after he mailed in a free-throw competition when he was young and foolish.
He spends his downtime
peeing in the bushes carving an arrowhead out of sediment from the Mississippi river and makes it into a necklace for Coach Cormier. He mutters something about courage and bravery during the presentation and “DC” gets bashful. Kinda disappointed we didn’t get any slow piano music or the requisite bro hugs. Mitchell is homesick and tells the camera he misses squirrel hunting, because that’s how you make “squirrel dumplings.”
The house gathers to watch UFC Orlando and as you might expect, the place erupts when Jeremy Stephens melts Josh Emmett. Coach Miocic drops by with a dozen pizzas and it’s a “chill” time, according to Mike Trizano. Coach Cormier is in the broadcast booth shouting out his team from “The Sunshine State” because he’s good like that. Fast-forward to the next day and it’s time for the official weigh ins.
Both fighters make weight without incident. Let’s fight.
145 lbs.: Brad Katona (6-0) vs. Bryce Mitchell (9-0)
Round 1: No touch of gloves and Katona misses with a kick. Mitchell answers with a hook that backs him up. Katona turns up the heat and goes low, then high. Mitchell answers with a push kick that is caught and turned into a takedown. Katona working from guard and Mitchell defends with the legs. Katona works for side control but has to settle for half guard. Mitchell rolls into a guillotine but Katona can’t seal the deal and gets reversed. Now Mitchell is on top, but only briefly, as Katona then does a reversal of his own and regains position. Katona working from half guard but Mitchell escapes during a scramble. Back to the feet and Katona drives him into the fence. Knees soon follow. Mitchell circles out and they return to the center of the cage. Mitchell pawing the jab and eats a right hand. Katona with a low kick. Katona tries for another and Mitchell shoots. They bounce off the cage and Mitchell dumps him to the floor. Round ends with Katona on bottom but I gave him the round 10-9.
Round 2: Mitchell comes out more aggressive, lands a punch, then a kick. Katona answers with a kick of his own. Then another that buckles Mitchell. They both connect with hard rights and then grab each other in a weird hug. They shuffle to the fence and Mitchell gets denied a takedown. Cage-grab warning from the referee. The separate and the fists start flying from both combatants. Pretty even round thus far. Katona lands a clean right, then a kick to the thigh. Mitchell answer with a straight left down the pipe that snaps the head back. Katona charges forward and looks to grab hold of him but Mitchell gets on his bicycle. Katona tries to lunge in with punches and Mitchell uses that momentum to shoot and get the fight to the floor. He lands in guard and tries to gets something going but Katona does a good job of tying him up with the legs. Up-kick from Katona and Mitchell dives in with a punch at the bell. Both fighters sucking wind. 10-9 Mitchell by a hair.
Round 3: Katona eats a left hand right out of the gate and jumps in to return fire. Mitchell walks forward and finds a home for the left hand. Mitchell shoots and drives Katona into the fence. He drops for the single and gets his neck locked up in a guillotine but he powers through it and gets the fight to the floor. Katona won’t let go of the neck but he’s got no submission. Corner calling for Katona to stand and not take the round off by hanging out on his back. Mitchell on top but not doing much, prompting the referee to call for action. He gets sloppy and Katona slaps on an armbar. It looks like it could be trouble. Mitchell rolls into the hold and keeps himself out of danger. He escapes the submission but ends up on his back. Katona with intermittent punches and Mitchell throws up the leg. Katona spins free and gets side control, then half guard. Mitchell tries to scramble out but gives up his back. Katona is all over him and locks up the rear-naked choke. Not long after Mitchell told a story about never giving up in any endeavor, he’s forced to surrender in his semifinal match up.
Final result: Katona def. Mitchell by submission (rear-naked choke)
Here’s where we stand heading into episode 11:
155 lbs.: Mike Trizano vs.
145 lbs.: Brad Katona vs.
155 lbs.: Joe Giannetti vs. Allan Zuniga
145 lbs.: Tyler Diamond vs. Jay Cucciniello
Stay tuned next week for Joe Giannetti vs. Allan Zuniga in the second lightweight semifinal, as well as the coaches challenge, which looks hilarious because it has Miocic and Cormier playing ice hockey and let’s just say “DC” is working those skates like a newborn calf.
See you in seven!